Bank of America to workers: Merger rumors are ‘baseless’

Bank of America Corp. has sent a memo to employees quashing speculation that it is in talks to merge with rival JPMorgan Chase & Co. The bank called the speculation “baseless” and said it didn’t “make practical sense.”

The nation’s largest bank sent the memo Tuesday as takeover talk swirled in the market after a few Internet blogs reported that it might be acquired by JPMorgan Chase. In the memo, Bank of America also said reports that it needs to raise at least $200 billion in additional capital to meet new regulatory capital requirements was also “wrong.”

The bank’s shares rose more than 11 percent Wednesday to $6.90. 

Burger King adds oatmeal as healthier breakfast item

Oatmeal is the new burger.

Burger King, the world’s second-largest hamburger chain, added oatmeal to its breakfast menu this week, joining a slew of other chains that have brought the hot cereal out of the cupboard and into restaurants and drive-thrus.

Burger King said it is trying to offer customers a healthier breakfast option beyond its sausage croissant sandwiches and french toast dipping sticks. It’s also an attempt by the struggling chain to catch up to competitors and boost sagging sales by appealing beyond its base of burgers-and-fries fans.

“We are definitely looking to broaden our target and our audience,” said Leo Leon, vice president of global innovation for Burger King. 

Subway trying cafes with nicer decor, bigger menu

Subway is testing a new caf?oncept with upscale d?r and an expanded menu.

The newest Subway Caf?pened Wednesday in Flagstaff, Ariz. The spacious restaurant features chic lighting, flat-screen televisions, stuffed chairs, pastries and blended drinks not typical in traditional Subway restaurants.

About 15 of the cafes have opened around the country. A Subway spokesman said the company plans to expand the locations on a case-by-case basis.

A restaurant industry analyst said Subway is combining its traditional sandwiches with new offerings to see if people are willing to abandon their allegiances to McDonalds and Starbucks. 

Walmart puts cork in plans for wine vending machines

Walmart has decided not to install 23 state-controlled wine vending machines in its Pennsylvania stores.

An Aug. 15 letter from Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart Stores Inc. to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said it’s terminating the agreement, but doesn’t say why. A company statement released Wednesday blames “mechanical concerns” with the 10-foot-high machines, which can hold hundreds of bottles.

A lawyer for the machine vendor, Simple Brands LLC, said the machines are operating smoothly. He questioned the basis for Walmart’s statement about mechanical issues.

The program began last summer. Liquor board CEO Joe Conti said the board and Walmart are discussing other partnerships, such as a store-within-a-store concept. 

Amazon.com is expanding local deal sites to 10 states

Amazon.com Inc. is expanding its new local deals site to New York and other parts of the country, hoping discount-happy consumers will flock to its offerings as they have embraced market leader Groupon.

With the additions, AmazonLocal will be operating in 30 locations in 10 states, all within about three months of the service’s initial launch in Boise, Idaho, in early June. Although it’s still small compared with the market leaders, Groupon and LivingSocial, it shows that Amazon is keen to leverage its popularity as an online retailer to compete in this nascent yet fast-growing market. Amazon also has an investment in LivingSocial.

Mike George, vice president of AmazonLocal, said an online deals site seemed like a natural fit for Amazon because the company has always focused on helping customers find anything they want to buy. 

Mortgage applications fall to a 15-year low last week

Mortgage applications to purchase a home fell last week to a 15-year low, despite the lowest mortgage rates in decades.

Many potential buyers are holding off because of worries about job security and fear the economy could slip back into another recession.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday that an index measuring mortgage applications, which are adjusted for seasonal factors, fell 2.4 percent last week from the previous week.

Home mortgage applications plunged 5.7 percent to their lowest level since December 1996.

— From news service reports